New Paper and Silk Lamination Project: Wild Cotton

Last year, the year I didn’t blog, was hell.  But I did manage to take photos then with the idea I’d do art again one day. I took this photo at Sabino Canyon last October, during an unusual fall wildflower bloom. This is wild cotton, and for more info on the plant check out this helpful blog:

wild cotton photo for blog

I’ve blogged before about a very cool technique to make fabric, using color photocopies and transferring the pigment from the copy to fabric. It’s been ages since I’ve done any art, and the time finally is right, so since getting back from Santa Fe I’ve been working on this project. I took the above photo, along with a few others, and made photocopies which I then turned into a collage. Here is the roughly 18″ x 24″ collage outside ready to be laminated to silk. I like to work outside for this part of the process as it can be messy.

wild cotton paper lamination 1

I then pinned silk organza over the collage, and used some tape as well.

wild cotton paper lamination 2

I then screen-printed acrylic gel medium over silk-covered collage; and then I quickly rinsed off my screen and squeegee, as acrylic gel medium dries super fast. The collage dried in about 10 minutes in our hot summer sun. The next step is to remove all the paper, so that all is left is a lovely piece of silk—with a collage transferred on to it. I start the paper removal process manually; this is the piece looking at it from the back. You can see all the bits of masking tape used to adhere all the little pieces of photocopy paper together in the collage:

wild cotton paper lamination 4

Once I’ve pulled all the paper off I can by hand, the piece is soaked in cool water for about 10 minutes, and then I use a scrubber to gently remove the paper. Gently. I’ve scraped a hole in silk before so….be…..careful….when….scrubbing! And note the sieve. Personally, few things drive me nuttier than wet paper. It’s gummy and sticky. After a little bit of scrubbing, the fabric goes back in a tub of cool water for a rinse, and then is returned to the scrubbing table for more scrubbing. I pour all the used water through a sieve to strain out the paper and dispose of it properly. Never be tempted to dump any of this stuff down your sink. It will clog in a way you likely can’t imagine so don’t do it!

wild cotton paper lamination 5

This is the finished piece:

wild cotton paper lamination 3

I am inspired by how translucent this piece is, and it’s an impetus for me to use this technique for a piece I hope to finish in time to enter in a nationally juried show. More on that next time!

Screen Printing Revisited

Finally, back to an art quilt project. I have this idea of a piece about the January 8th Shooting in Tucson.

I made print paste mix yesterday to get ready for screen printing, as it’s best for the mix to sit 24 hours before use; it’s just sodium alginate, water and some urea. I’ve read several recipes that call for 8 Tablespoons of sodium alginate per gallon of water (a whole gallon is made because it stores well in the fridge); however, this is what the paste looks like with those proportions:

Yep. Very runny for a paste that you’re supposed to actually drag across a silk screen. So I added sodium alginate, increasing my total number of Tablespoons to 11:

And while it thickened some more after this effort….it was still too thin. I’m going to add 14 Tablespoons next time and see if I actually get a paste.

I then cut out some stencils of human shadows; I had this idea of creating fabric of the silhouettes of a man, woman and child to represent the different people hurt and killed at the shooting:

I settled on the shapes of a girl and a man; although it’s not my intention, I think this creates a more sinister feeling, and ultimately this may be very good for the piece, given the subject matter.

Here are the freezer paper cut-outs ironed on to the back of a silk screen:

Here’s my “outdoor studio”: plywood on top of sawhorses makes for my work space, and the patio table is my work area. Check out the wildflowers in the background!

Here’s one run:

Unfortunately, the freezer paper stencils didn’t stay ironed-on to the silk screen; they remained in place for the first run, then started remaining stuck on the fabric midway through the second run due to the wet conditions and the thin print paste mix. I just carefully unpeeled the stencils and stuck them back on the fabric. Here’s what the fabric looked like, wet, after 4 runs. I seem to remember from past practice that the fabric really can only absorb the dye from 2 runs, possibly 3 but not much.

I should make it clear that I have poor screen printing technique, and that I do all kinds of short-cuts and chaotic things while I print:

Here’s the finished fabric; it’s pale (I used very old dye to see if it still worked, I used Procion MX cold water dyes I’d mixed 4 months ago and left in the fridge, just to see how they’d perform:

I think the shadow idea worked well; the shapes are distinct. I like the colors, too, but I think I’ll mix fresher dye next time:

New Thermofax Fabric

Below is a not-very-good photo of my first thermofax screen; the smaller, bottom screen is the first screen, and the one above it has the same image but is larger–and, more importantly–has a blank space on the very left before the design starts, and this space is necessary so you have somewhere to put a pile of thickened dye before you scrape it over the screen. I didn’t put this blank space–kind of an improvised “well”–on my first screen, which is why it was so hard and frustrating to print.

Here are a couple of new screens I made of saguaro cactus shapes; you can see the black and white photocopies I used to make the screen on the right.

This is what I jokingly refer to as my “wet studio”: my patio table and a bunch of buckets, old towels, yogurt containers and thickened dye; here I have the screen with some dye on the left, ready to be squeegeed:

This is what the print looked like:

And here I’m starting the next run…

…which looks like this:

Below, the fabric after multiple runs:

I also did yet another layer of mountain-shapes after I was done printing the saguaros, here are all four panels getting a bit of late afternoon sun before they go in the washer:

This is a part of the mountain fabric, as it looks now…

…and here is the saguaro fabric:

Not bad, I think. I’m slowly getting the hang of printing with these screens.

Thermofax Fabric

Still working on getting the hang of screen printing with thickened dye and a home-made, duct-tape framed thermofax screen: today I took the Catalina Mountain fabric I’ve been working on, and screen-printed more mountains on top. Here’s one layer, drying:

And another:

I let the fabric sit in the sun for an hour or so, washed it, and then went through the whole process again. Here’s the fabric drying (again):

This is what I have so far, 2 pieces of fabric; the thickened  dye is always way lighter dry than it appears wet:

Here’s a close up; I’m happy with the results, it’s cool how you really can see the multiple layers of screen-printed dye:

Travel Prep: A Summary of Eccentric Last Minute Tasks

Most people getting ready for a vacation would occupy themselves with normal tasks. I like to tidy up the house and yard, and then I find myself involved with a variety of tasks involving either ending a project or starting one…so when I get back I have a clean house and something to get started with right away!

This morning, to add to my guilt about gutting my beehive yesterday, I found some newly hatched bees in the comb I removed; I took them out and put them by the hive entrance, but I don’t know if they made it in:

Then, for breakfast, some of the figs I picked the other day: yum. A fresh fig is sublime. I’ll give the uneaten ones to my mom before I leave; they can’t go to waste!

I wrapped up the door project the past few days. I have 3 exterior doors; and the one in the back of the house I’ve never been able to use, because it was a bad door. I won’t even post a photo of it because it was that bad. I finally had a pro replace it (same excellent guy who did my windows last winter), and he popped off the security door for me so I could paint it, first with a primer:

Then bright blue….and I was limited by the spray paint blues available, not many; first I used an exterior blue paint I brushed on, and then I tidied it up with a unifying coat of bright blue spray paint….

…to match the color I’d painted the solid door….

…and presto, he came by the other day to pop the steel door back on, and I now finally have a door that I can use. It’s been years. I’ll have to paint those steel bolts blue.

Then I just got the latest Jane Dunnewold book in the mail; I pre-ordered it so my copy is autographed, you can read more about Jane Dunnewold here:

The photos inside are so luscious, here’s a sample–the directions on how to make print-paste:

That got me starting a collage (which I’ll finish when I get back) of prickly pear cactus color copies, which I’ll use to make some laminated paper, a process I posted about a few weeks ago:

Then, to save money, I resurrected my very old (and very old-fashioned) oilskin raincoat I got in New Zealand almost 20 years ago; these things aren’t breathable, but they do keep you dry, and I figure even though it’s summer I should probably bring a rain coat to Newfoundland.

I didn’t realize that oilskin can be “reproofed”; that is, re-waxed, so it stays waterproof. I ordered some DuckBack reproofing wax online and got to work; this is how the coat looked prior to waxing….

…and this is a before and after look, the right side in this photo is the side I’d reproofed. I think you could just use melted paraffin wax for the same effect, but, I wanted a slightly nicer and less petroleum-based smell; DuckBack has lanolin and some other oils.

Now I just have to pack my carry on bag……

Screen Printing With Water-Soluble Crayons: Hand Made Greeting Cards

I am so late in getting my thank-you cards sent to my peeps in Boston; they so kindly put me up, hosted great meals and drove me around Boston. I don’t like procrastinating: I’ve never liked the feeling of having something I have to get done looming over my head when I can avoid that feeling altogether by just….getting the job done.

But….procrastination happens. Even to me.

Of course, these days, no one really writes thank-you notes anymore; unless maybe for a wedding gift, so for me to have this as a looming task on my list of things-to-do says a lot about what a throwback I am. So, perhaps no one would really notice if they never got a note.

The thing is, I had such a nice visit back there; and I have such lovely relatives. So, I do want to acknowledge that. To make up for the delay, I made cards the other day, instead of just buying thank you cards. I used a technique from the fabulous Jane Dunnewold book Improvisational Screen Printing; see her website for info on ordering.  I believe the book is out of print; but, a DVD of the book is available. In part, I made cards because it’s been SO LONG since I’ve done any art projects due to the ginormous landscaping project with which I’ve been consumed.

The technique I used from Jane’s book involves drawing a design with watercolor (aka water-soluble or aquarelle crayons) on a silkscreen, and then using acrylic gel medium (readily available at big-box craft stores) to transfer the design onto paper;  transfering to fabric is also possible, but the acrylic gel medium is slightly stiff and will alter the hand of the fabric. The crayon drawing breaks down in the process; only a few transfers are possible.

In this photo, you can see a plain 12 x 18 silkscreen in the back; up front, I’ve used masking tape on the same sized silkscreen to mask-out the screen, leaving only greeting-card-sized mesh exposed. I got the pack of blank greeting cards at a big-box craft store, using a half-off coupon:

While watching the Joy Behar Show, I doodled with my water-color crayon collection on my silkscreen; I am a bit of  Joy Behar addict, you’d never catch me alive watching the View, but I do think she’s very funny and her night-time show is gossipy fun while I do household or crafty projects.

Now, mind you, these are just simple greeting cards. Nothing complex. Here are the final crayon drawings; and, on the mesh, the crayons seem faint: the design will transfer quite strongly, though. I’ve done this once before, and a hint to anyone who’s going to try this technique: do NOT layer the crayon, thinking perhaps a thicker layer of crayon will delay the inevitable design breakdown, and give you a few more transfers. It won’t work. The thicker layer will just act as a resist, and will print as a blank space. Don’t do it!

Since I was doodling on my dining room table, I was using poster-board to protect my precious formica. Hey. I eat off that surface. With a plate between me and the formica. But, you get the point.

I taped down “guides” on the poster board so I could line up my finished silkscreen on top of the blank greeting cards; this way, everything will line up nicely once I started screen-printing with the gel medium:

Here, I put down the silkscreen on top of the greeting cards; you can see the plastic jar of gel medium (I use Liquitex, with a gloss finish, which looks nice on paper).  I poured Liquitex on the masking tape on the top of the silkscreen and used my squeegee to pull the medium down and up once, then removed the prints, put down new blank cards, and did the same thing again until the design was exhausted (5 runs altogether, which made for 10 cards; and of the 10, I’ll use 6).

It takes some practice to figure out your style and figure out how many “runs” you can get of your image. Here is a shot of the strongest and weakest prints; I got a couple images right in the middle of the range shown below, but those prints aren’t in the photo:

I hope all my cousins in Boston will be happy with their cards. It will make up for what I know Emily Post would consider a very tardy response on my part.

I would LOVE to attend Jane Dunnewold’s  Art Cloth Mastery Program. Please check out her website. Her work is inspiring, to say the least. I bought her very first book, Complex Cloth, when it came out in the early 90s and I’ve been a fan ever since.